Making the Case for Information Governance

Without an IG program, organizations are at risk of breaking the law. Certain external events, such as litigation or a regulatory investigations, also create special legal requirements for the management of information. In these situations, even information that could normally be thrown away has to be preserved and properly managed. Failure to do so opens an organization and its employees up to serious criminal and civil penalties, such as those spelled out in Section 802 of Sarbanes Oxley:

“Whoever knowingly . . . destroy[s] . . . any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter . . . shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.

We can’t throw everything away. We need some way to determine which information has value either because of business goals or legal requirements. IG helps us with this.

Reason #3: E-Discovery

“It costs about 20 cents to buy 1GB of storage, however, it costs around $3500 to review 1 GB of storage.”- AIIM International Email Management ROI Calculator

IG makes sense because it reduces the cost and pain of legal discovery, now referred to as ediscovery since most information is stored electronically. Proactively managing information reduces the volume of information subject to ediscovery and simplifies the task of finding and producing responsive information.

In the past five years, ediscovery has evolved from a specialized legal issue into a disruptive force in the business, IT, legal, and information management realms. This transformation was kicked off in the U.S. by the 2006 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and fueled by years of inattention to information management at many organizations, which had allowed vast stockpiles of unnecessary email, documents, and databases to accumulate.

Today, organizations can expect to spend millions of dollars finding, processing, and producing responsive digital information in the course of a major lawsuit. According to Fullbright and Jaworski LLP, one in five large organizations spends more than $10 million each year on litigation (excluding settlements and judgments). By 2011, it is expected that organizations will spend nearly $5 billion annually on ediscovery tools, according to Forrester.

The expense of ediscovery comes from many sources, but one of the most significant is the cost of finding, processing, and reviewing information that has been unnecessarily retained. The law on this point is quite simple: if you possess information at the time you know or suspect it will be responsive to a legal matter, you must preserve it — even if you could have normally disposed of it in accordance with your records management program.

The proactive nature of IG means that unnecessary information is disposed of as soon as it is no longer needed and all legal requirements for its retention or preservation have been satisfied. IG enables us to get rid of unnecessary information in a defensible manner. As such, it can reduce the amount of information that needs to be reviewed in the course of a legal matter.

When working with clients, it is not uncommon to find that 75 to 95 percent of the information created by the organization in the email system, for example, has no long-term business value or legal retention requirement and can be disposed of in the ordinary course of business. These percentages vary by system and industry, but the amount of “record” content is usually much lower than “non-record.” Further, a good IG program reduces the amount of duplicate information stored by an enterprise. Duplication is expensive and wasteful. In our ediscovery practice, it is not uncommon to find that 30 percent or more of the data we collect from clients is duplicate information.

The value of IG then, is that it can help organizations defensibly reduce the amount of information stored by orders of magnitude — a benefit that is felt not only in reduced management costs, but also reduced e-discovery costs and risks.

Barclay T. Blair is a consultant to Fortune 500 companies, software and hardware vendors, and government institutions, author, speaker, and internationally recognized authority on a broad range information governance issues. He is the founder and principal of ViaLumina Group, Ltd. His blog, Essays in Information Governance , is highly regarded in the information governance community. Barclay is the award-winning author of several books, including Information Nation, and is currently writing Information Governance for Dummies. Barclay is a faculty member of CGOC (